Curious Clips: Excerpts from The Curious REPort

Friday, October 23rd

The Psychology of Survival

Sometimes the best choice is just to make one. A good indication about how someone will react in a survival situation is how they react now. If they are constantly looking for help and making excuses now the same will hold true in a disaster situation.

Survival means more than how well stocked you are or how long you have been prepping; survival means understanding the situation and knowing what the best course of action will be. It also means thinking of your supplies as tools that will help your situation…not tools vital for the situation.

Whether you are in the wilderness or in an urban setting a key ingredient in any survival situation is mental attitude and the psychology of survival. And while having survival skills is important, having the will to survive is critical.

It might be a little tough keeping a positive attitude when everything around you seems to be falling apart, but it’s crucial to try and keep a level head and avoid getting “stressed out.”

When Panic Sets In
You have probably heard that in a wilderness survival situation the worst thing you can do is panic. How you handle the effects of the situation and your ability to defeat panic before it sets in will determine your rate of success or failure in any emergency situation.
If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, there is a simple acronym I use, the acronym S.T.O.P. It stands for Sit, Think, Observe and Plan.
Sit: Before you do anything, sit down and collect your thoughts and think about what you have that will help you.
Think: Think about what supplies you have. Think about how you have prepared for a situation like this in advance. Most importantly, keep a positive attitude and don’t let your mind go overboard on you.
Observe: Look at your surroundings and decide what poses a threat, and what resources might be available to you. Observing will also give you a more confident feeling about the situation.
Plan: Now that you have thought rationally about the situation, it’s time to take action. You have conquered the major danger of not allowing panic to cast your fate. Stay positive and remind yourself that you have the will to conquer anything else that confronts you.
You’re Stressing Me Out
Stress can be something that sneaks up on us before we even notice it. All people handle stress differently. Some people hold it inside and some people let it affect their decision making process more outright. Some general signs of stress are:
• Difficulty making decisions
• Angry outbursts
• Forgetfulness
• Low energy level
• Constant worrying
• Thoughts about death or suicide
• Trouble getting along with others
• Withdrawing from others
• Hiding from responsibilities
• Carelessness
Once the body recognizes the presence of a stressor, it then begins to act to protect itself. A stressor can be a single event or multiple events that affect someone’s decision making process or cause a full breakdown. It’s impossible to tell what might be a stressor for someone until after the fact, but the more you know about how people react to stressful situations, the quicker you can address the issues before they become bigger problems.
Fight or Flight
In response to a stressor, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode, reverting back to our primal instincts. This can produce an adrenalin rush as the body releases stored fuels to provide a quick energy boost and your breathing rate will increase to supply more oxygen to the blood as it prepares for action.
As a stressor causes you to go into “fight or flight” mode your senses will become more acute. Your hearing becomes more sensitive and your vision and smell become sharper so that you are more aware of your surroundings and possible dangers. Stressors can add up, and depending on how the person reacts, their personality can change immediately or it can be a “the straw that broke the camel’s back” type scenario.
The Survival Mindset
Having the will to survive is more important than any tool you have. Being able to manage your fears and understand how you or anyone else might react in a crisis goes a long way in keeping you out of unneeded dangerous situations.
Even though most situations can be better managed by thinking them through, you still need the supplies to make the job easier. But having the knowledge to make the correct decisions—or at least the most educated decisions—gives you a psychological advantage most people won’t have.
Remember, having the survival mindset and understanding the psychology of survival will not guarantee that everything will go as planned, but flipping out and giving up WILL guarantee a poor outcome. We all have the will to survive right now, but how will you react when push comes to shove?

Curious Clips: Excerpts from The Curious REPort

Friday, October 16th

Working to Stay Poor

by Ianta Summers, originally in The Center for American Progress
I have a friend who works at Foot Locker — the successful international retail chain of more than 3,300 stores — who is struggling to make ends meet. He’s an assistant manager at a store in a suburb of Washington, D.C. He told me he earns $7.55 an hour for a 40-hour work week. In addition, he said he gets a 2 percent commission on sales, discounts on in-store purchases, stock options, and health care. My friend does well, selling dozens of pairs of sneakers every pay period that cost as much as $250 each. But even if those benefits seem generous, when his check reaches his pocket, he doesn’t have enough money to support himself—or a family.
Consider, for example, if he chooses to take advantage of a 30 percent discount to buy store merchandise. To do so, he would have to scrimp on some other basic necessity, such as paying rent, buying food, or covering the cost of getting to and from work. Even his health care is a hard choice because he said the cost of his basic, company-sponsored coverage is about $60 each paycheck.
Like the vast majority of poorly paid workers, my friend often has to rely on support from family, friends, or government assistance just to live and work every day. Sure, he’s employed, but he’s mired in poverty nonetheless. I call this indentured servitude.
Companies and their well-heeled executives who practice this type of capitalism are cheating society. By failing to pay workers a fair living wage, they’re forcing taxpayers to pick up the slack. In other words, corporations that don’t do their share to support workers in feeding and caring for their families push that burden onto taxpayers, who ultimately provide a safety net for the working poor. If corporations would pay their employees a living wage, the size of government would shrink because these indentured servants wouldn’t have to rely on Medicaid and emergency rooms when they get sick, food stamps because they are hungry, or Section 8 housing because they can’t afford rent. They work to stay poor.
It’s no secret that companies are profiting big during this slow economic recovery. The Dow Jones average just breached 16,000—a record for the historic stock indicator. Companies are sitting on piles of profits, but little of their largess trickles down to their workers. In some cases, the firms aren’t hiring at all; the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high as corporate executives argue they’re not confident enough in the recovery to employ more workers or pay them higher wages.
Corporations have legions of lobbyists, lawyers, and accountants protecting them from paying a fairer share of taxes. They do everything they can to keep and hide their wealth in offshore accounts, embrace corporate welfare, and hire foreign workers who toil in dangerous sweatshop conditions.
When inflation and the cost of living are considered, a company paying $15 for flipping burgers is not unreasonable, considering how much money they give away in dividends. People who work deserve to earn a wage that can, in the very least, sustain them and feed their families.
Low-wage work is not inferior labor. In some cases, laborers’ hard work is far more challenging and difficult than sitting at a desk or shuffling papers. It’s grossly unfair for taxpayers to foot the bill for the enormous income gap simply because corporations refuse to pay a living wage.
Government programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, and living assistance are signature pieces of legislation from our government. We pride ourselves on being compassionate and charitable as individuals. Corporations add to the size of government when they refuse to play their monetary part in the American Dream.
When corporations pay their employees minimum wage, they add to the deficit and take money out of the hands of consumers, which weakens the economy. A person making $7.50 an hour—25 percent more than the federal minimum wage, or about $1,200 a month in pre-tax income—gets by only with help from family, friends, or some sort of publicly supported assistance.
Any person that makes that in an entire year relies on the government to eat, live, and survive. By one estimate, taxpayers subsidize a single Walmart in Wisconsin with $900,000 per year in government assistance for its underpaid workers.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich draws in interesting comparison involving Walmart—the nation’s largest private employer, with more than 4,000 stores—to General Motors, which held that title in the 1950s. “General Motors in today’s dollars was then paying its workers about $50 to $60 an hour,” he observes. Today, Walmart’s median wage, including part-time workers, is $8.80 an hour.
How can Americans live with so many workers being forced into indentured servitude? While capitalism provides many in the country with abundant freedom and opportunity, the downside is that greedy executives deny many at the bottom to provide for the few at the top. Worse, they’re rarely accountable for their role in the immoral practices that produce a country bifurcated into stark rich or poor contrasts.
When will millions of voices collectively say enough is enough? When will the middle class collectively use their spending power to demand better for their less-affluent neighbors? Our shared future depends on it, and the clock is ticking.

Curious Clips: Excerpts from The Curious REPort

Thursday, October 8th

Living for Today or Saving for Tomorrow?

“There’s no time like the present!” Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with messages about how we should treat ourselves and enjoy the moment. At the same time, we are incessantly instructed that we need to be considerate of the future. A person can search online to find dozens of ads and articles promoting different ways to enjoy life. “Carpe diem” vs. “a penny saved is a penny earned.” “Live like there’s no tomorrow” but also “do things now that your future self will be thankful for.” And how about that viral earworm that swept social media in days not long ago: Y.O.L.O-you only live once? These lessons come down to two opposing arguments. So which is better?

Living for today means living without fear and concern for the future. It’s an instinctual mindset. These kinds of people thrive on their impulses. Nothing is more important than the present moment. If a person feels like buying something, then they do. As a result, they typically have less money. They spend the little they have on simple, temporary pleasures like dining out and buying drinks. They think that in order to live life to the fullest, they must treat each day like their last day on Earth. People that prioritize now over later find more value in experiences, making memories, and celebration. The thought is: what good is it to save for the future? If we’re always working and never get to enjoy ourselves, then by the time the future comes when we need that money, we won’t be happy. We’ll be rich, but unfulfilled. All that time and energy spent on saving wasted. 

On the other hand, saving for tomorrow means making sacrifices in the present. The idea is to abstain from spending now so one can spend more later. These people keep track of their bank accounts, are heavily mindful of their spending habits, and make a point not to be wasteful. Those who pile their money tend to idealize things like stability, comfort, and ownership. This mindset is effective for saving up to buy a home, paying for a child’s college tuition, retirement, etc. It’s especially helpful in providing a financial safety net for whatever potential disaster that can occur. All the decisions a person with this philosophy makes add up to security. They might argue: what’s supposed to happen if something goes wrong and we don’t have any money to fix it? I will have wasted years of my life spending money on pointless things, things that don’t mean anything. My life would be better now if I hadn’t splurged. 

Here’s an abridged version of an article that Trent Hamm wrote for The Simple Dollar, called “Living for Today Doesn’t Require You to Drain Tomorrow”:

“Why would I want to live in misery just so I have a few more dollars when I’m old?” I completely understand where the question is coming from, but the question is based on a few assumptions that aren’t really factual.

First of all, the question implies a connection between enjoyment of life and spending money. This is the biggest issue I have with the question, because I’ve found that, once you get beyond a certain point, there isn’t much of a connection there at all. Having more money doesn’t increase one’s life fulfillment. A person that makes $40,000 a year is not spending to excess. The numbers simply don’t add up. Once a person has covered the basic needs of their life and taken care of other requirements like paying taxes, there’s not a ton left for non-essential spending on a $40,000 per year salary.

What does increase one’s life fulfillment outside of spending money? Friends. Family. Social connections. Romance. Meaningful work. In other words, living a fulfilling life has an awful lot to do with positive interactions with other people along with a healthy dose of spending one’s time on things that one identifies as meaningful or valuable. None of that has to do with spending money.

The question at the start of this article brings up another implication I disagree with: that the act of saving money for the future is somehow wasteful. Often, the implication is made that a person won’t be able to enjoy life to the fullest when they’re older. Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but most of the people I’ve had the privilege to know as they grew older managed to maintain pretty fulfilling and enjoyable lives until perhaps the last year or two of their life. I know a man in his mid-eighties that is going to go on his first international trip later this year, for example.

Also, retirement is not the only future savings goal out there. There are a lot of life goals that can be achieved through spending a little less now that occur far before retirement. Going back to school for a new career. Taking your entire family on a trip to the other side of the world.

I think the question that starts this article actually doesn’t have much to do with money at all. It has more to do with fear. There is never a bad moment to step back and re-examine what you actually want out of your life.

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